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tv   Role of Candidate Debates in Political Discourse  CSPAN  November 9, 2014 5:10am-6:07am EST

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a key part of preparations is to select moderators. the commission uses a single moderator. the debates are broadcast live on tv and radio by a special events pool. the commission also negotiates with candidates on the details of the forums. the commission also organizes debate related civic education activities such as debate iewing parties to engage voters. n terms of impact, the commission has organized 26 presidential and buys presidential debates. exit polling shows that americans say that debates are the single greatest factor in determining their voting. debates do not generally change people's minds on who they're
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going to vote for. the viewership of the debates is second only to the most widely watched tv program in the u.s. which is the super bowl. the final of the u.s. style football championships. to put it into scale, a well watched primary debate in the u.s. will have 3 million viewers. a typical network news program will have 6 million to 7 million viewers. a poorly watched presidential debate will have 37 viewers and a well watched debate, 75 million viewers in the u.s. and any more overseas. i would like to shift gears at this point and discuss the commission's international work
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which is done in partnership with the national democratic institute. the commission has collectively help groups in more than 35 countries around the world. as you may have seen in your own country or as the slideshow indicates, there is a global movement toward making candidate debates part of an election. it is at least 65 country so far and i've suspect the number is higher. why are more countries organizing debates? debates provide a unique opportunity to compare candidates. there are generally the only time in a campaign when voters see and hear directly from candidates, comparing ide-by-side in the same format the same time. debates also increase focus on policies in a campaign. candidates traditionally campaign on personal attacks or
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slogans. in contrast, eight two our debate forces candidates to have a more in-depth position on the issues. in jamaica, polling after a 2011 debate showed that 70% of the public was more informed on candidate policy positions because of the debates. 30% actually said that they change their vote as a result. in the u.s., after the 2012 debate, some 60% of voters said the debates were more helpful than campaign commercials in deciding whom to vote for. we have also seen the debates lower political tensions and promote tolerance in countries coming out of civil war, where elections can be a flashpoint for violence. debates can reduce tension and show that even political rivals can discuss their differences and shake hands on national
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television, which sends a essage of unity to the country. many countries coming out of conflict such as afghanistan, and liberia have held debates. debates in ghana, malawi, and kenya, the candidates publicly agreed to accept results or go to the courts rather than the streets with their complaints. debates also help citizens hold officials accountable. once in office, the positions taken by candidates during debates are on the record. the media can hold them to their promises. debates also promote a positive ational image. i recall debates in peru picked up an additional 25 million viewers because cnn cover the event.
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debates are seen as signs of a healthy democracy. debates can project positive images internationally that can encourage tourism and investment. countries that whole debates re a model for their neighbors. i'm reminded of an editorial that appeared in zimbabwe which made that case. jamaican debates led to inquiries from groups seeking to follow suit in guyana, trinidad and tobago. the benefits of debates for candidates are many. debates provide a chance to speak directly to the electorate unfiltered by the media.
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candidates can reach more voters in one debate. the nigerian debates in 2011, i heard estimates that they were viewed by 50 million people. that is coverage that you cannot buy. candidates can connect with undecided voters were less likely to attend a campaign rally. debates level the playing field where one party dominates access to the media and they allow parties to show emerging leaders and revitalize the image of the party and show inclusiveness. despite the benefits, holding debates can be hard and many fail for production and political reasons. a challenge is to get candidates to commit to debating especially incumbents. in the u.s., we had that problem. on the production front, another example was in 1976, the audio went out at the fort-carter debates. the candidates stood silent on the stage for 27 minutes on national television.
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it was very uncomfortable. o increase success rates, we found that groups can pool their expertise. debates international.org has information on debates from around the world, including a etwork that is in 18 country association of debate organizers. thank you. [applause] >> thank you matt. we will follow that by diane and then open up for questions. > good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to
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participate in this forum. as peter mentioned, i do a lot of research and writing about debates. i have also been on several projects internationally including, in georgia, some work in afghanistan recently. some work with another ngo in south america. i have had this international experience but, as a professor, the research is the thing that has been of most interest to me. i have had an opportunity to compare some of how they response to debates in the united states and whether that is similar in other countries. what i want to do is talk about what makes a fair debate. the purposes of debate, it is a side-by-side candidate comparison and it is usually the only time that you will have that throughout a campaign.
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many years ago, media research in the united states noted that there are at least three agendas going on in a debate. the candidates debate because they have something that they want to say. it is usually not what the questioners want them to talk about, which is why they often do not answer the question they were asked, or they talk about something other than the question once they had answered it. the media has an agenda, and they are creating the questions in the situation. public has an agenda. there are certain things public wants to hear. the debates focus on issues and after you have heard hours of negative advertising or very short clips on newscasts, it is important to have extended time devoted to it and they want to hear about the issues. what has happened with technology is we have more pportunities for the public to
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have input into the questions at the media are actually asking. whether through the use of polling data or questions at the public sends. all of those agendas, everyone gets to have a piece of the debate and it is one of the few times that you have this in a campaign. they reveal leadership traits. some of the research that i've done over the years was to establish a program called debate watch, where we encourage people to invite friends into their homes or open up schools, community centers, watch together and alk. if you go to the commission's website, you will see debate watch and the questions that we
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ask people to discuss. hundreds of these groups that we had transcripts of. what we found was that the debate, as a watch over the 90 minutes or two hours, they begin to see what kind of leader this person will be. i see how they think on their feet, what happens when they are attacked. they are getting difficult questions. their verbal and nonverbal communication tells something about the kind of leader they will be. when vice president gore debated governor bush, at the first debate, one of the agreements was that the camera would only show the person speaking. they were doing split screens where you were seeing the person who was not. the vice president was sighing, rolling his eyes, reacting to things that then governor bush was saying. when i went into focus groups, people were saying, he was rude, and he was doing it on stage with cameras. what if he brings a world leader in and he is rude to him?
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people interpreted this behavior as an indication of how he might govern. they were saying, we found out something about his personality. i looked at the transcripts from across the country and we had similar reactions. they do provide that type of leadership trait. as matt also mentioned, they synthesize issues. if someone were asleep and woke up the night of the debate, they would know, basically everything they been talking about in the campaign because all of the issues come into play. when i go into negotiate a debate or plan a debate in the united states or in another country, i start by saying, we have to look at what makes a fair debate. one is that you clearly stated rules. in the united states, the agreements are 20 pages long and they talk about things such
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as the height of the podium or whether the audience can react or who is going to be in the audience or what kind of shots you can have on the camera. it is very important that the rules are developed by the sponsor or jointly developed by candidates. that everybody knows what they are and they do not change and everyone has agreed to them. this was one of the things that i spent a lot of time on when i had done some of this. make sure everyone is aware and that you do not change the rules once someone shows up. one of the most important things is that there is an opportunity for equal time. there are some debates where it is clear, you get the time signals and once it is over, everyone has the same not a time to answer. there are other debates that are more free-flowing. it is important for someone to be keeping track of how many questions went to one person as
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opposed to another and how long they really talked so that you an begin to even it out. in the u.s., someone is probably keeping track of time and it is usually reported. it is important to ensure everyone has equal access. that does not mean a speaker will use all of his or her time, but they have to have the opportunity. uninterrupted speaking opportunities, where no one is going to interrupt them. the rules begin to come in to play, if some of these interrupting, the moderator may take time from the person who interrupted. those things have to be worked out. what matters with the debates, this is where 50 years of research has shown us a lot. the format matters. whether you have a single moderator or a panel, it makes a difference in the dynamics. this is one of the reasons why the commission went to the single moderator. a lot of feedback in general indicated that the single moderator would provide more emphasis on candidates and more
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opportunity for debate and switching among people. if you have a town hall where citizens are asking questions versus a journalist asking questions you get a different result. citizens ask very different kinds of questions and journalists do which gets back to that agenda. whether you have a single rebuttal opportunity or you have a chance to ask follow-up questions means you get more depth to an answer, especially if someone is abating. how many candidates there are makes a difference. in parliamentary systems, you're going to have multiple candidate debates to read we to between have two party debates here but in 1992 when we had three candidates, one ross perot joined the major party candidates, it made a difference in the dynamics of the debate. the number of people who is there makes a difference.
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who is asking the questions? is it the public, journalists? you have the opponents asking questions? they are doing more of that in nonpresidential debates and often times in the primary debates. this is also happened in a lot of international debates and it is important in many cultures that the candidates directly connect with one another. what else matters is the context of the campaign. when does the debate take place? in the u.s., they typically want two weeks after the last debate. if there is a major error, candidates want time to clarify that. to talk about it and have the debates more in the distance. whether it is a close race or not makes a difference. this may make a difference as
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to how many debates summary participates in. an incumbent in a close race is more willing to debate than one who is not. whether it is an incumbent or challenger and their style of debate is often influenced. challengers are more aggressive, incumbents have to look presidential. it makes a difference in demeanor and the way they approach their arguments. how long to get to answer. the length of the debate itself has an influence on how much the public will learn. the culture. this is one of the things that i find when i work internationally is to get a sense of what the viewership culture is. and whether or not the culture is amenable to something like a townhall. several years ago, the korean broadcasting association invited me and other scholars in to talk about how we do debates. they basically said a townhall would not work here. that may not be the case 10 years later.
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he did not feel it was appropriate for the right time to do it. there are a lot of other cultural issues. who you're inviting. in georgia, several years ago, we had two rounds of debates. the qualified candidates and the nonqualified who were parties who had not reached a certain level in the previous election or did not hold a high enough number of seats in parliament. we made sure everyone had a chance. we ran it on two consecutive nights. staging of the debate. are they standing up, sitting down? by the able to move around and talk to people asking them questions? the postdebate coverage. that is one of the things where we have "spin doctors". post coverage influences what people think about the debate if they do not have a chance to watch all of it. i can have as much influence on debates themselves because it often clarifies factual errors
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that were made. coverage is also important. why do we do them? for people who have already made up their minds, they reinforce their choice and often mean somebody gets up and votes. they feel better about the person for whom they are voting. they reinforce more than they change. for undecided voters, especially first-time voters, they are very important. 20 or 30 years of research have shown that. they provide new information for nearly all viewers, even people who follow the news have told us they learn something that they did not know about their own candidate became important. they provide unrehearsed, real moments. there's always a question that no one expected or some type of reaction.
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how they handle it says a lot. they demonstrate leadership traits. they really do matter to voters. the impact of the social media is huge. i think you get the picture. one of the things that is happened in the u.s. in the last couple of elections, it is also been done in other countries, the meters, where they get a group of people who are cross-section to watch the debates and they react to what is being said. either, it is a positive reaction, negative or neutral. here's an example of the device that they click on.
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if they are positive about it, they will turn a positive, they keep it in the middle neutral. this is the way the graph comes out. you can see, blue is positive, red is negative. you can see when somebody says something and it tracks the actual moment in which this happens. you begin to see which questions people react to in an audience. they are nonscientific because it is a small number of people but it gives some indication. on some networks, they will how these meters as the debate is going on. the other impact with social media are that you can have real-time questions from viewers. one example is where they have a group of journalists sitting off in a corner with laptops
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and people were e-mailing or texting questions that they wanted asked in the journalists would scream them. for one part of the debate, the used questions that were coming in in real time. the other thing that is interesting is that twitter and facebook, people are reacting. the media reports on that in the u.s. what were the most common tweets? what do people respond to? people be in chat rooms live. in georgia, they had a chat room knowing simultaneously. hen they rebroadcast the debate, you could see that going on. instant polls, which are not scientific. you can punch in the number, ell who you thought no one and you are getting this instantaneous poll. comments on new stories. if you read news stories that are online, there are hundreds and thousands of comments about debates. people begin to get a reaction
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to them. social media has made these more inclusive and interacted to the public. in 2014, what we have seen is that many of these are traditional with the panels. that is because they are often done in a studio. that is the most common way that they tend to be. we have seen more multi-candidate debates, especially in public television. libertarian party has qualified candidates for many positions throughout the country. some of the debates will have everyone who is on the ballot on the debate. we have seen new formats with questioning the other candidates or formats where at a certain point, they bring in questions from the audience and hen the more traditional townhall. much of the experimentation in the u.s. with new formats comes at the nonpresidential or
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primary level. we are much of that this year. social media is very strong. i think we are ready now. the first what i want to show you is the florida's governors debate. the democrat candidate is a former republican governor who witched parties. there was a dispute. it gets hot on the stages. the former governor wanted a fan under his podium. if you move it a little farther -- >> governor crist has asked to have a fan placed underneath his podium.
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the rules of the debate that i was shown by the scott campaign say that there should be no fan. somehow there is a fan there and for that reason, i am being told that governor scott will not join us for this ebate. >> you can hear the audience's reaction. governor scott eventually came out in debated. this is an example of what i talked about with rules. people needing to follow the rules. here was a case of governor scott not believing that governor crist was abiding by the agreement and he made his point. eventually he did come out but the point was made. another example, this is an example of the innovation that as going on in the georgia
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senate debate. this is a three-way debate, with an independent candidate. in addition to the two parties we have an independent candidate. one of the things i wanted you to see was, join the discussion. people knew where they could tweet to give reactions. >> they are in a race to replace returning senator saxby chambliss. this race is a tossup. this debate is one hour. >> this was one where they brought in audience questions, but they also let the candidates question one another. there were follow-ups to the candidate's questions.
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it was a different format from what we've seen in other laces. >> the last one but i want to show you is vermont. this is a multi-candidate debate, where everyone who is on the ballot for governor is in the debate. they did the same thing for the congressional seat, where every person on the ballot was at the debate. this is a typical in the u.s. at a general election stage. >> good evening everyone and welcome to our biennial debate each ring the candidates for governor of our state. i'm stuart leadbetter. as you heard, we have invited all seven candidates whose
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names appear on the ballot to be with us tonight. all seven have joined us. positioned in a medical order they are, peter diamond stone, representing to liberty union party. chris erickson, an independent. dan feliciano, representing the libertarian party. scott milne is the republican nominee. bernie peters is an independent area and emily peyton is an independent. and peter shumlin is the nominee of the democratic party this year. our format is pretty straightforward. i last question and everyone gets a minute to respond. we will try to keep things moving. thanks to our timekeeper who is sitting at my right. will have time for a closing statement as well. if questions from pbs viewers. >> this is one where it is a traditional format, but some of
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the questions came from viewers. they had been sent in ahead of time and had been collected during debates as well. hose are some of the changes that we have seen the cycle at the state and congressional level. i close by saying, after researching debates for the last 30 years and being involved in planning of many debates at many levels, i'm a firm believer in their importance. they have an impact on the political culture. it is difficult for someone not to debate. it is difficult not to face the public. the attitude that many americans had is, no one gets a job without doing an interview. if you think about the debates as a high pressure, high powered, visible interview, that is what it is. >> thank you diana. [applause] >> we will jump to questions and answers.
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we have microphones out there. i would ask you to introduce yourself when you are speaking and give us a short question so that we can get several questions before we are up. who would like to present the irst question? >> what you're told us is articularly interesting. i'm curious about something here. i wish truck because in senegal, we are not used to seeing these types of debates on television. for public consumption. hese are traditions that exist
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in certain advanced democracies. in france, there are televised debates. n senegal, the electoral campaign takes place under the supervision of a public body, which watches over the whole thing and makes sure that candidates are on equal footing and that opportunities are qual on all sides. especially, when you have to promote your platform. elevision debates during the electoral campaign, where the candidate may avail themselves of a certain air time in order they can make a statement or there may be meetings that are organized by the channel itself.
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there are never these types of side-by-side debates such as you have shown us. my question is the following. n such a case, in this format, is there an oversight mechanism of the statements made by candidates? is this controlled? or are they free to express themselves as they wish, according to the tradition we are used to seeing in the united states? in my country, the statement made by the candidates are verified, checked, in order to ake sure they're not slippages or that something has not been said that may compromise the campaign of another candidate. they can make sure the candidates have not abused anything.
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it is a public organization, the national council of audiovisual regulation. there is a different approach. it seems that there is a complete coverage of everything in the united states whereas in my country, freedom of expression, it would seem, is strained by certain ethical rules and official public organization has to oversee everything. when there are two candidates running for president during the second round, this is when we have -- in my country there are those co-rounds, and in the second round, they are in the campaign themselves.
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we've never seen two candidates in the second round getting into a public debate on television. it is a very interesting experience that you have shown us. my feeling is that freedom of expression is complete and comprehensive in the united states. perhaps, it is imprudent for some of these debates or formats to exist in countries such as mine, where it may complicate things. >> very interesting uestion. in the u.s., what has happened in the last several election cycles is that they have fact watches.
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university of pennsylvania has an entire center that does fact checking. the statements that are made can be checked online. the media also does fact checks. you will find those in some of the reporting. that was one of the things that i was talking about was that the coverage after the debate is very important as when there are incorrect facts stated in both candidates tend to do it, you will see newspaper articles or something online that will give that to you. given your political culture and election culture, i can see where this would be difficult. i've worked in other countries where, if an ad is put on and it is not true, the election commission will pull it. that would never happen here. ou would have to build in some way of doing that verification
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afterwards. here, we are free to say whatever. >> can we have the next question please? >> we do not have translation now? >> i'm aware that debates are important to the electoral process and i from haiti and i work for the president's cabinet. i have a concern that i would like to express. i would like to take the example of the two debates in my country by way of
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example. in france, the latest debates, we realized that these debates made it possible for the candidate who won the debate to win the election. these candidates prepared their debates in order to convince voters but not always on the basis of verifiable facts. this is a new practice in order or candidates to win elections is to well prepare his rhetoric but without necessarily taking into account the objectivity of the information. do you not think that it would be necessary for organizations who organized the debates, that hey carry around a sort of
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objective verification of the debate beforehand in order to ot create frustrated people? if proposals are made during the debate, these promises are not kept, it could make the population frustrated. also, it would make debates in the coming days less significant. do you not think there should be a body that would have to
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guarantee the significance and objectivity of debates? i see that you are not mentioning the disadvantages of the debates for candidates. does that mean that there are no disadvantages in debates? i'm talking about the united states. whether we are talking about the candidates or the country itself, do they tend any disadvantages? >> we have the fact checkers talked to us about how they do this. the issue of fact checking was dealt with really well yesterday and i learned much about what is being done to make sure that what is said does not get called out if it is not correct. what is raised here goes beyond checking basic facts. the question is, maybe matt would like to respond to that. >> i think the reason many countries are turning to debates is that they provide more information than a campaign.
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where you have rallies, a candidate can get by with a quick slogan. a debate, you go on record and the media has the opportunity to analyze those statements and tell whether they are true or false. this affects how candidates are seen are the voters. in terms of maintaining integrity, diana has signaled, you can set up rules that determine the behavior of candidates, the importance of being honest. things that affect the tone of the debate. back and be part of the discussion as well. to do all you can to make sure that it is an honest exchange of ideas. in terms of disadvantages, i think, for every candidate, it is a personal decision on
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hether or not they want to participate. some debate better than others. most benefit from the exposure and they can certainly take different strategies if they feel someone is a better debater than another and play down their expertise and positioning in the media. overall, i think the trend is that debates are likely to happen in most countries whether the candidates love them or not. people are beginning to expect that they will have the opportunity to hear from candidates and lay out their platforms. >> one last question if we have one from the audience. the last of the day. lease. >> in making the questions in a debate, from the debates and
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he u.s. election, how big of a problem is it for voters to hange their minds? >> i think, there are many sources, -- what is the process for selecting questions in the u.s.? on the presidential level, and think it may vary for the
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general election. a moderator is selected an experienced tv journalist generally. there are solely responsible for the content of the questions. the commission does not. that is one wave and come up ith questions. think, around the world, they can come from the internet, they can come from voters in the audience, other candidates, a panel of journalists, a single journalist. there is no one formula. often, you will see mixed formats to give different flavor and color to the discussion. >> i interviewed a couple of the journalists who are the single moderators for debates. what they both told me is that they had research units of their network look at what the
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common themes were in the campaign speeches and ads. they looked at what was on the nightly news, newspapers, what polls were saying were issues public wanted to discuss. they provided briefing papers to moderators and develop their questions out of those. some of the debates i've worked on in other countries, we have followed a similar pattern. even let the candidates know ahead of time that there will be four topics so that everyone knows ahead of time. even though they will not know the specific questions. >> i would like to close the session and thanked the audience for giving us your time. thank you to matt and diana for coming here today and indulging us on this important issue. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national
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cable satellite corp. 2014] >> more from the international foundation for electoral systems all-day forum on elections and trends in the united states and around the world. in this panel, the commissioner, along with a former member, discuss the complexities of campaign financing and transparency issues. it's about 50 minutes. >> in case you need interpretation, please note that english is on channel 7,
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french on channel 9, i happened nearby on channel 10, and spanish on channel 11. if you need head sets and you don't have one yet, please indicate that to our colleagues ho are providing them. i am magnus ohman. next week i will celebrate having been with ifes for 10 years, and i have the pleasure of working with ifes in many parts around the world. much more importantly, we have two prominent speakers with us today. on my far left is trevor potter, a former commissioner and the chairman of the federal election commission. he's republican. he was on john mccain's 2008 campaign. he is also a member of the washington, d.c., law firm and is president of the campaign legal center, which is an
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n.g.o. here in washington specializing in issues regarding money in politics. my direct left is ellen weintrab, and who has been chairman of that commission. in true interest of bipartisanship, she's a democrat. she was previously counsel to perkins and a member of the political law group, where she counseled clients on federal and state campaign finance and election laws, political ethics, nonprofit law, recount, and lobbying regulations. before that, she was counsel to the house of representatives' ethics committee. she also served on the house ethics manual and was principal contributor to the state ethics -- senate ethics manual, two documents that i'm sure are needed. she left the committee,
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left the responsibility for the public's education and ompliance initiatives. we have discussed this session in advance, and we will give an overview of the case law in this area, and ellen weintraub will then discuss the results and spending patterns and the consequences in this particular election cycle. following this presentation, we will open the floor, as we had done previously, for your questions and interventions. there are many factors that influence electoral processes, and many of these are covered in the various sessions of the ifes u.s. election program. but one factor that is always important is the role of money in the electoral process. i have yet to visit any country where people tell me that money isn't important in our
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elections. whether it is huge spending on advertising or vote buying or using state resources, or the nomination in the government party, nondemocratic systems. the importance of this factor is now recognized around the world, and in the recent study of 180 countries, they couldn't find a single one that didn't have at least some legislation in this field. that includes some late comers, including my own native sweden, which passed its first law about this in april this year. however, there's also growing understanding that creating laws is only the first step. the vast majority of political party and campaign finance laws around the world are not
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complemented. for ifes, supporting legal reform is an important part of our work with political, but it is only the first step. the vast majority of our work i want to mention the recently published political finance oversight handbook, which is in your packet, and there are more copies available outside. this is, in turn, part of our training in the enforcement curriculum. one of the people who helped us to field test this curriculum is commissioner weintraub. we also spend a lot of time assisting civil society groups that monitor campaign finance, including the elections last
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week. their report, which should be out in a month or so, would be the first campaign finance monitoring report ever in tunisia if not in north africa. during the last 15 years, ifes has supported political initiative in over 40 countries, and there is no sign that the need for this work is declining. one example is the united states. even though the first rules came in this country over a century ago and several decades have passed since the legal reform in the 1970's, there is still a lot of work to be done. many are arguing that the transparency and oversight are the role of money -- or the role of money in u.s. politics has gradually gotten worse in the last few years.
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we will hear more about these two issues from our two speakers. i will hand it over to trevor potter. >> thank you, magnus, and it is a pleasure to be with you today here at ifes. i have had time to spend groups -- i have spent time with groups like yours. it gives me a step to -- it gives me a chance to step back and think through what you are about to see, but i have to say that i think what you are about to see, explained by commissioner weintraub and myself, is probably more confusing today than at any time that i have known in my professional career, so i do not necessarily envy you trying to figure it all out. we are trying to figure it out ourselves. but i am glad you are here. magnus, thank you for your
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opening remarks, sort of setting things in context, because i think americans tend to forget that there are other democracies in the world struggling with the same issues we are. they are not unique, and i think from your perspective you will have the opportunity to see how the issues that magnus has raised on how money has been spent, how money is disclosed, are indeed faced by any country having an election. our system has -- is a constitutional system, so we have a constitution that is set up that created two houses of congress and an executive branch and an independent judicial branch. congress passes laws, which means they have to pass both chambers, the house and senate, and then they have to be signed by the president.
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they now are a law, but they are interpreted by the supreme court under two circumstances -- either if a case arises where a party says we think the law says x and another party, or the government says y, and then it goes to the court to interpret what congress met. the other situation is someone whose activity is governed by the law says that it is contrary to the constitution, that a regulatory system is not permitted by the constitution. that actually is something that the court has said frequently in recent years. for much of our history, the court had nothing at all to say about congressional regulation
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of money and politics come on the limits of who could spend on disclosure. in the middle of the 20th century, we had a scandal you may have heard of called the watergate scandal, which involves a great deal of money being spent by the reelection campaign of president nexen, some of it contrary -- of president nixon, some of it contrary to -- some of it not disclosed, some of it appearing as a bribe. congress enacted a new set of laws reacting to that that limited money, disclosed money. and there, our supreme court stepped in, and what they said is that our constitution, specifically the first amendment of the constitution, limited the power of government to regulate the raising and spending and disclosure of money in politics.
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our first amendment is, in my experience, reasonably unique amongst countries in that it is an absolute prohibition on government doing certain things. the full text is congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for the redress of grievances. all of this went back to the period of regulation in the 1700s and was a reaction to the things the british government had done in the american colonies. but if you listen carefully, you did not hear anything about the government regulating or not regulating the spending of money in elections. what has happened over time and

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